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Music is the soul of Hindi cinema,

Without it; Indian films would be like everything else.

But whether we like the song or dance routine or not, that is what signifies Hindi cinema as authentically its own unique form.

Despite how atrocious mainstream Hindi cinema music has become; with its endless remakes, vulgar songs and auto tuned pieces.

Hindi cinema’s music will live on thanks to its classic legacy.

From musical maestros such as S.D Burman to A.R. Rahman, from singers such as Lata Mangeshkar to Kishore Kumar.

Music is the flavor of Indian cinema, of the world in general.

In a bid to depict its greatness, I have compiled ten of the best soundtracks of Hindi cinema.

Kindly remember this is an individual opinion piece scouring across 100 and more years of Hindi cinema.

It will probably miss a lot, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea; but according to me, these are the ten best [in no particular order];

Teesri Manzil

Music: R.D. Burman

Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Songs: “Tumne Mujhe Dekha” [Mohd. Rafi], “O Mere Sona Re” [Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle], “O Haseena Zulfonwali Jaane Jahan” [Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle],  “Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyaar Tera” [Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle], “Dekhiyen Sahibon” [Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle], “Deewana Mujhsa Nahi” [Mohd. Rafi]

In 1966, Nasir Hussain presented the exciting thriller Teesri Manzil.

Known for his peppy cinematic youth films; Hussain decided he needed some energizing music to the feature.

So instead of opting for Anand’s collaborative partner S.D Burman, he had the legendary musician hand the reigns to his son;

R.D. Burman.

Teesri Manzil became an iconic film thus, giving birth to possibly Hindi cinema’s greatest composer.

The young Burman went onto create an exhilarating but also moving soundtrack.

The cinematic genius of Vijay Anand was bolstered by a stirring set of songs such as ‘O Haseena…’ and ‘Aaja Aaja’ but it was also in the softer moments where Burman’s versatility was shown.

The dual hill based romantic tracks;

‘O Mere Sona Re’ and ‘Deewana Mujhsa Nahin’ added the zing to Asha Parekh and Shammi Kapoor’s chemistry.

Finally a touch of S.D was felt in the poetic ‘Tumne Mujhe Dekha’ to round out the soundtrack.

An auspicious start for the rock and rolling Pancham Da!

Rockstar

Music: A.R. Rahman

Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

Songs: “Phir Se Udd Chala” [Mohit Chauhan], “Jo Bhi Main” [Mohit Chauhan], “Katiya Karoon” [Harshdeep Kaur], “Kun Fayaa Kun” [AR Rahman, Javed Ali, Mohit Chauhan and Nizami Brothers], “Sheher Mein” [Mohit Chauhan and Karthik], “Hawa Hawa” [Mohit Chauhan], “Aur Ho” [Mohit Chauhan], “Tum Ko” [Kavita Krishnamurty], “Nadaan Parinde” [AR Rahman and Mohit Chauhan], “Tum Ho” [Mohit Chauhan], “Sadda Haq” [Mohit Chauhan]

Featuring the first of fruitful collaborations between Imtiaz Ali and AR Rahman;

Rockstar embodied the title of its film with dazzling guitar riffs and a melancholic sufi touch.

The films soundtrack was steeped in the spirituality of romance and a poetic soul drifting into oblivion.

Indeed no soundtrack stirs the heart of a generation like Rockstar, making the heavily derided film a cult masterpiece for the ages.

When one says how soundtracks embody Hindi cinema, the latest example is this firecracker track that proves the brilliance of the maestro;

AR Rahman!

Awaara

Music: Shankar Jaikishan

Lyrics: Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri

Songs: “Ek Do Teen” [Shamshad Begum], “Hum Tujse Mohabbat Karte Hai” [Mukesh], “Awara Hoon” [Mukesh], “Ek Bewafa Se Pyar Kiya” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Ab Raat Guzarne Wali Hai” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Jab Se Balam Ghar Aye” [Shamshad Begum], “Ghar Aya Mera Pardesi” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Dam Bhar Jo Udhar Muh Phere” [Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar], “Tere Bin Aag Yeh Chandni” [Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar], “Naya Meri Manjhdar” [Mohd. Rafi]

Though Barsaat is oft considered the epitome of RK Films musical sensations, as a complete soundtrack something just hits right with this underrated set.

Raj Kapoor is known for his socialistic Chaplinesque cinema; that adds the nine rasas to every story.

Awaara is much the same, and also includes a blistering soundtrack; an RK Films signature.

The combo of Shankar Jaikishan, Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra creates for some exciting melodies.

Awara’s title track is synonymous with Hindi cinema around the world, and was hummed across the Soviet Union and more during its release.

But it’s not just the title track, ‘Ghar Aya Mera Pardesi’ and ‘Hum Tujhse Mohabbat Karte’ remain timeless cult tunes.

The soundtrack boasts a legendary troika of Mukesh, Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar backed by Mohd. Rafi Shamshad Begum.

This one’s lost in time, but for the ages.

Lootera

Music: Amit Trivedi

Lyrics: Amitabh Bhattacharya

Songs: “Sawaar Loon” [Monali Thakur], “Ankahee” [Amitabh Bhattacharya], “Shikayatein” [Amitabh Bhattacharya and Mohan Kanan], “Monta Re” [Amitabh Bhattacharya and Swanand Kirkire], Zinda [Amit Trivedi], “Manmarziyan” [Shilpa Rao, Amitabh Bhattacharya and Amit Trivedi]

Featuring a set of songs as a throwback to the free spirited and genius compositions of the 50’s;

Lootera provides a fascinating array of lovely music.

Maybe that is why the duo of Amit-Amitabh are signs of the best modern day Hindi cinema has to feature.

They respect the legacy left behind and enhance music according to narrative.

Here it means songs that touch upon culture [Monta Rey], pure romance [Sawaar Loon and Manmarziyan] to finally a ray of shining hope [Zinda].

Indeed Lootera is one of the most accomplished soundtracks of this generation and an era defining piece.

Gangs of Wasseypur

Music: Sneha Khanwalkar and Piyush Mishra

Lyrics: Varun Grover and Piyush Mishra

Songs: “Jiya Tu” [Manoj Kumar], “Ik Bagal” [Piyush Mishra], “Bhoos” [Manish Tipu and Bhupesh Singh], “Keh Ke Lunga” [Amit Trivedi and Sneha Khanwalkar], “O Womaniya” [Khusboo Raaj and Rekha Jaa], “Hunter” [Vedesh Sokoo], “Manmauji” [Usra Banerjee], “Tain Tain” [Sneha Khanwalkar], “Chi Cha Ledar” [Durga], “Kaala Rey” [Sneha Khanwalkar], “Taar Bijli” [Sharda Sinha]

More than the sake that GoW is a terrific soundtrack, is the fact that at its heart beats the idea of putting effort into making music breathe life into narrative.

More often than not, Hindi cinema has created its music first and forced it into a films narrative.

In GoW the two work in absolute sync, not only that the music manages to reinforce a cultured rooted-ness while having distinctive cultural breaking flavors.

It’s a beautiful mix than Khanwalkar brings to her pieces.

Scouring the ends of earth, Khanwalkar makes the music of GoW become a statement of its radical cinematic ambitions.

So then you have the Caribbean local special ‘I am A Hunter’ and then you get the very Bihar centric ‘O Womaniya’.

Though not necessarily meant to be in two parts, thanks to the evolution of its characters;

GoW’s two parts of the soundtrack seem distinct and as much chart the change in the violent state as its characters violent antics grow.

Khanwalkar makes you taste flavor in music, that is everlasting.

Mughal-E-Azam

Music: Naushad

Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

Songs: “Mohe Pangat Pe” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Jab Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Mohabbat Ki Joothi” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Humein Kaash Tumsein Mohabbat” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Bekas Pe Karam Kijiye” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Ye Dil Ki Lagi” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Ae Ishq Yeh Sab Duniyawale” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Khuda Nighebaan” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Ae Mohabbat Zindabad” [Mohd. Rafi], “Prem Jogan Ban Ke” [Bade Gulam Ali Khan], “Teri Mehfil Mein” [Lata Mangeshkar/Shamshad Begum], “Shubh Din Ayo Raj Dulara” [Bade Gulam Ali Khan]

Often due to its arresting visuals, we tend to forget that Mughal-E-Azam featured some of the most powerful music.

Backed by the stirring vocals of Lata Mangeshkar, the soundtrack features music of a very poetic touch that embodies the very notion of pure romance.

‘Jab Pyaar…’ remains an evergreen classic, but it is the lesser heard songs that equally entrance the listener.

Whether it be the haunting crooning in ‘Bekas pe Karam Kijiye’ to the stirring ‘Zindabad’ and the unique qawaali style ‘Teri Mehfil Mein’.

The songs are powerful as the film is in their own right.

Mughal-E-Azam’s magnum efforts to become a masterpiece, start like many Hindi films with its glorious music.

Dil Se

Music: AR Rahman

Lyrics: Gulzar

Songs: “Chaiya Chaiya” [Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasti], Jiya Jale [Lata Mangeshkar and MG Sreekumar], Dil Se Re [AR Rahman], “E Ajnabee” [Udit Narayan and Mahalakshmi Iyer], “Satrangi Re” [Sonu Nigam and Kavita Krishnamurty]

With AR Rahman, Gulzar and some of the finest singers to grace our lives;

How could Mani Ratnam go wrong?

Well, he couldn’t.

Dil Se is a perfect soundtrack that features some sensational music through out.

Chaiya Chaiya has become an icon on its own, but it is the moodier romantic ballads that steal the show.

The title track brims with passion while the smooth Jiya Jale touches upon the beauty of its central characters mystic.

Dil Se soundtrack is the best combination one could ever see in Hindi cinema of musical maestros and it never disappoints.

After all if a soundtrack can boast Udit Narayan’s piece as its weakest, it means it has achieved a status unlike any else.

Because even E Ajnabee adds it magical Narayan touch to the puzzle.

Guide

Music: SD Burman

Lyrics: Shailendra

Songs: “Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hai” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Din Dhal Jaaye” [Mohd. Rafi], “Gaata Rahe Mera Dil” [Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar], “Kya Se Kya Hogaya” [Mohd. Rafi], “Piya Tose Naina Lage Re” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Saiyaan Beimaan” [Lata Mangeshkar], “Tere Mere Sapne” [Mohd. Rafi], “Wahan Kaun Hain Tera” [SD Burman], “Hey Ram” [Manna Dey], “Allah Megh De Paani De” [SD Burman]

SD Burman had to feature and what a feature it is!

Vijay Anand is hands down the greatest filmmaker at turning musical pieces into works of art and the same holds true of Guide.

Depicting the breaking relation between Rosie and Raju during the heavy second act;

Two songs from altering perspectives play out about the demise of the relationship [‘Kya se Kya…’ and ‘Saiyaan Beimaan’]

Beyond that the free spirited Rosie breaks shackles with the enchanting ‘Aaj Phir Jeene…’ under the beauty of Waheed Rehman.

Then there’s romantic build ups in the film produced by ‘Tere Mere Sapne’ to ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil’ to ‘Piya Tose…’

All the songs by SD Burman feature a distinct touch, that move to the beat of the relations and characters.

This all evolved toward the final cry for god, in a nice end touch.

Pyaasa

Music: SD Burman

Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

Songs: “Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Laga Do” [Geeta Dutt], “Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein” [Geeta Dutt and Mohd. Rafi], “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi” [Geeta Dutt], “Jaane Woh Kaise” [Hemant Kumar], “Sar Jo Tera Chakraye” [Mohd. Rafi], “Yeh Duniya” [Mohd. Rafi], “Yeh Hanste Hue Phool” [Mohd. Rafi], “Jinhe Naa Hai Hind Par” [Mohd. Rafi], “Tang Aa Chukhe” [Mohd. Rafi]

Trading songs between the angelic vocals of Geeta Dutt and the pained soul of Mohd. Rafi;

SD Burman returns with a sensational soundtrack, to the greatest Hindi film of all time!

Pyaasa’s soundtrack is steeped in poetic romance and heart ache.

Between the two sides is the heart wrenching finale of Pyaasa;

Heman Kumar’s Ludhianvi penned ‘Jaane Woh Kaise…’

The song can stir memories of lost romances for lost souls and is a perfect point on the beauty of Pyaasa.

This is music at its absolute best no doubt!

Bombay

Music: AR Rahman

Lyrics: Mehboob

Songs: “Hamma Hamma” [Remo Fernandez], “Kehna Ki Kya” [KS Chitra and AR Rahman], “Tu Hi Re” [Hariharan and Kavita Krishnamurty], “Kuchi Kuchi Rakkama” [Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurty, GV Prakash Kumar and Sharadha], “Kuch Bhi Na Socho” [Pallavi, Shubha, Anupama, Noel and Srinivas], “Bombay Theme” [Sujata Menon]. “Apna Zameen Yeh” [Srinivas]

He is an Oscar winner.

His music reaches beyond the world.

AR Rahman’s masterpiece soundtrack is held together by enchanting lyrics, varying genres that prove his genius and singers that pour their heart and soul in.

Hariharan stands tall with ‘Tu Hi Re’ that encapsulates the very haunting sincerity of the film and the plight of its lovers.

Everything around it provides such resolve.

From the exciting ‘Humma’ to the fearsome ‘Bombay Theme’.

There is a reason why Rahman is so revered in the annals of Indian cinema and this soundtrack is it!

Nothing captures the music the way he does.